"I'm fine, really."
"You didn't eat much, I'm gonna get Nathan."
"I'm fine, I just ain't hungry, okay?".
"I really think ya need to eat more of that."
"Geez, Vin. I'm fine," he tried not to laugh, "Your gettin' worse than Buck," he mumbled quietly.
"What was that last part?" Vin asked.
"Your bringing me good luck," JD smiled, innocently.
"How's that?" the tracker laughed out.
JD opened his mouth to try and think of something, but was saved by the door opening. Buck and Chris came in and sat in the chairs at the foot of the bed.
"Any of ya seen Nathan?"
"Yeah, he's at the saloon, why?" Buck asked, as he looked at JD, who was sitting in the bed, leg propped under pillows, and his head leaned back on the headboard.
"He only ate half that bowl of soup, and a few bites of the biscuit," he said with concern.
Both men tried to hold back a laugh, but the smiles escaped.
"Vin, you ever known him to eat a whole bowl of soup?" Chris asked.
"Never gave it much notice how he ate," Vin shrugged.
"I'm just full , that's all, Vin, I can't eat no more, I ain't sick, you ain't gonna break your promise are ya?" the young kid was flustered.
"Promise?" Buck inquired.
"I told him if he ate 'everything' I'd set him by the window," glancing at the tray on the side table.
"So, you ain't gonna set me by the window?" sending the look to his brother. The older men either turned his head or looked down, both covering the smile.
"Aww, come on, JD. That ain't fair."
"Forget it. Come on. Um..you guys wanna help me 'now'?"
"You made the deal," the mustached gunslinger pointed out, as the two men got up from the chairs and meeting Vin next to the bed. JD was too busy throwing off covers to hear the conversation.
"You coulda backed me up a bit."
"Not when he does that," Chris said seriously, knowing he was vulnerable to that look that made JD look like a six year old kid that just had his candy stolen.
Chris and Vin set a chair next to the window and covered it with one of the blankets that covered JD's bed. Chris brought another chair and sat it across from the other. Vin walked back over to the bed where Buck supported JD. Chris grabbed the pile of pillows, and put them in the empty chair.
Vin got on the other side of JD and as the kid put his arm around Vin's shoulder the two men lifted him a bit, allowing him to put his good foot on the ground lightly. JD couldn't hide the smile that crossed his face.
He hated being in bed, he hated not knowing what was going on in town, seeing the same people everyday, having the same thing to look at, and he hated being cooped up.
JD was lowered into the chair, as Chris lifted the bandaged leg, wincing slightly, and Chris apologized when he heard a gasp out of JD. Vin covered him with a light blanket, JD never taking his eyes from the window, the smile was just as bright as the sun shining in through the window.
"How's that? You all right?"
"Yeah, this is great, thanks."
"JD, you mind if I get somethin' to eat? I won't be long."
"Sure, take your time.. Not like I'm goin' anywhere." Never taking his eyes off the window, still smiling.
He watched as the door shut, and turned his attention back to the window, looking at the people crossing the street and going about their daily business. He put his elbow on the arm of the chair and put his head on the fist he had made, closed his eyes as the warm sun hit his face and fell asleep, still smiling.
+ + + + + + +
"Hell, Vin. That's the most I seen him eat in a long time," Buck said to the bounty hunter.
"Huh. How's he get outta bed in the mornin'?" Vin knew Buck would ride his brother about eating, and he would always defend him, but Vin was watching now.
"Pretty easy from the looks of it," Nathan's deep ominous voice not hiding his displeasure.
The three men swallowed hard what they had eaten each one opening his mouth to try and speak.
"Nathan, he was just sick of layin' in bed," Vin tried. Nathan's arms crossed in front of his chest.
"He ain't been there long," Buck tried as well, Nathan raised his eyebrows and tilted his head.
"It was the look," Chris finally admitted. Nathan just hung his head.
"You gotta learn not to give into him when he does that," he reprimanded.
"Like you do," Chris let out with satisfaction.
Nathan just sighed, knowing he gave into the kid just as much as everyone else, and sat down next to Buck, shaking his head.
"When did we get so soft?" Nathan wondered out loud.
"'Bout a year ago when some crazy kid jumped off a stage," the leader explained evenly, causing all the men to smile and laugh.
"I think its when he showed us he could ride," Vin relived.
"When he flew," Nathan decided.
"Definitely when he was swimming," Buck laughed out.
The laughter finally subsided, and Nathan seemed to remember why he was there in to begin with.
"Just don't let him walk on that leg," Nathan finally said, "I'm gonna check if he's awake yet."
"He was sleeping?" the ladies' man said with surprise in his voice.
"Yup, his arms layin' on the sill, and his heads leanin on the window," the healer reflected with a smile, and walked out .
Nathan walked into the clinic, he made his way up the stairs and began down the hall, he noticed JD's door was opened. He became upset, knowing that the boy had done something stupid like trying to get somewhere. Nathan knew JD hated being confined, but JD had to realize it was for his own good, the scenarios played out in his mind, knowing JD had probably gone down the back way and was laying in a heap at the foot of the stairs. He upped his pace and passed the open door without really looking, but something caught his eye and made him turn back.
Ezra had placed a table next to the bed, where JD sat, his foot propped up in a chair with Ezra sitting across from him. Nathan thought he was playing a game with the boy but as he paid closer attention he found out that was not the case.
"Okay, one more," Ezra gave JD another card face up. Ezra raised his eyebrow.
"Okay, I got five cards..and it under twenty so I win, right?"
"Correct, how did you know to take another card?"
"Well, I got that Ace first, and since you didn't shuffle the cards I fi.."
"Ezra, JD," Nathan stepped in.
"Hey, Nathan, Ezra was just showing me a new game," he tried to cover the fact that he'd been out of bed.
"How'd ya get him away from the window?" JD hung his head, he'd been caught.
"Ah, well.. You see.. Mr. Jackson, Nathan, it wasn't very difficult. I simply picked the boy up and brought him back to bed," the gambler said with a wide smile. He didn't have to know JD had made it half way back to bed when Ezra had shown up.
"Yeah, I bet," Nathan doubted, suspecting there was more to it.
"Well, I think ya been up long enough, let's get ya back into bed."
"Nathan, I already am in bed. I'm just playin' cards for cryin' out loud," the last few words coming out a restrained yawn.
"A-ha, into bed."
"Geez, Nathan," JD moaned as he moved back into bed, Ezra lifting the leg and placing it on the familiar stack of pillows.
"I believe, as Mr. Jackson is the healer, that he does know what is best. And if taking brief respites now and again aids in your recovery, you should abide by his wishes, young man."
"Why's everyone startin' to sound like, Buck?" he asked, but wasn't awake long enough for an answer.
The gambler and healer couldn't hide the smiles as the youngest of the seven fell asleep, with another yawn. The two men stepped out of the room, and Nathan closed the door, fighting the urge to lock it.
"Nathan, don't be hard on the boy, after all he did manage to get to the window unassisted."
"No, he had help, made some deal with Vin, Chris, and Buck," Nathan couldn't help but smile.
"He's a good boy, Mr. Jackson."
"Yeah, and as stubborn as they come," Nathan tried to sound irate.
"Just the boys spirit, with out that, I do believe our quaint little town would be rather...dreary," Ezra smiled with mischief.
"That it would, Ezra, that it would," the healer smiled in defeat, knowing the gambler was right.
"May I interest you with a drink, my friend?" Ezra inquired with a raised eyebrow.
"If your buyin', you bet," Nathan teased.
"As you wish," Ezra smiled and the two left the clinic and went to the saloon.
+ + + + + + +
A week had passed and JD had been moved back to his room, repeatedly telling Nathan he didn't need to be carried and telling Josiah to put him down. Josiah had come close when JD had pleaded in the only way he could, but one look from the healer and Josiah decided he'd rather spend a week in hell than have to deal with Nathan, so he continued to carry the boy.
JD had woken peacefully and noticed he was alone, and a grin full of mischief passed his face. He had gotten used to the weight of the hard bandages, Nathan called it a cast, and stood up from bed, right leg planted firmly on the floor, the other raised. He bent to open the door and was pleased no one was there, shut the door and proceeded to hop quietly to his dresser, to get dressed.
Everything had gone great until it came time for the pants, he couldn't get his foot passed the spot where his knee usually was. Determined to be dressed he hopped over to the bed, one pant leg dragging on the floor, and grabbed his knife and cut the leg on the seam. JD tried again and was pleased that his foot fit.
He made it to the window and looked out as he had done many times, always watching for someone to come into the boarding house so he could return to bed. Unfortunately, fussing with his pants cost him time, Buck and Vin were already in the boarding house. JD never had enough time to get to his bed when he heard the door open. He stood in the middle of the room as the two opened the door and entered, taking in the sight.
"Hi guys?" he thought of the only thing he could, smiling.
"What would you be doin' if we would have been Nathan?" Buck asked, humored by the fact that the boy had went pale as the door opened.
"Hopping real fast?" he thought with a wry smile, making the men shake their heads and laugh, as he made his way back to the bed.
"We was headin' for breakfast, you want somethin?" Vin asked.
"Yeah, outta here would be nice," he smiled hopefully, grabbing a comb and sticking it down the cast.
"Ya know we can't, Nathan'd have our heads," Buck stated the truth. "What the hell are you doing?"
"It's all itchy...I'll even let Josiah carry me over, come on guys. I can't stand being cooped up no more, just to the boardwalk..I..I'll sit on the bench..okay.?" he said as he continued itching, the plea was heard with it's full effect, and the men shifted. JD smiled at the hope of an 'okay', but was erased as he saw Nathan standing behind the men.
JD plopped on the bed heavily, knowing he was defeated. Without raising his head he put the rest of himself into bed, slamming the comb back on the small table.
"Never mind," he said distantly.
The two men turned , and as they left, each gave Nathan a 'are ya happy?' look and headed for breakfast. Nathan sighed and brought a chair to sit next to the bed.
"JD," Nathan began.
"Forget it, Nathan," JD cut Nathan off.
"I know your tired of being stuck up here, but.." he tried again.
"'It's for my own good', I know. Nathan," JD began turning serious eyes to the healer, "I know you think you know what's best, but I'm the one stuck up here, not you. I don't see what hurt it's gonna do if I go out?"
"You'll fall down and break your neck," he pointed out.
"Not if I'm just sittin'. Nathan, I can make it around this whole room, the only way I get any fresh air and see anything is to open up the window, it's been weeks, Nathan, I'm going crazy up here all day," he said, stating exactly how he felt.
"Sorry," Nathan stated sternly, and JD rolled back to his side, turning his back to Nathan.
Nathan hung his head, he knew he was hurting JD by making him stay in his room. It was for his own good, the kid had a streak of bad luck the last few months, being hurt from Lewis and Joseline, the kid had hardly recovered from each of those things. He just hated to think that if he let JD get around outside, something would happen and he'd be back to square one.
The kid had a strong will, but everyone has their limit, Nathan figured at the rate the kid was going lately, he'd find his limit, and when he did, there wouldn't be anything that any of them could do. He was a good kid, and he hated to have to put JD through anymore hurt, but this would be better in the long run.
As Nathan stood and left the room, he closed the door and lifted his head to speak softly, "Let him be for awhile, I think he's had more than his share, if you know what I mean," and lowered his head.
JD turned on his back as Nathan closed the door, he heard the healer's foot steps and pushed himself to sit up. He hated being stuck in his room, not just because he was bored, it gave him time to think about things. So much had happened over the last three or four months, and if he sat still too long, his mind would wander back and replay the things.
As he stared at his hands he remembered last time he thought, 'Nathan wouldn't mind him taking a short walk'. Maybe Nathan was right, that walk hadn't turned out very well, maybe he was safer here. He remembered how Cole had hurt him and how he had to deal with not being able to see.
He had to admit, that being blind was scarier than getting shot, but the guys had helped him deal with that. There were days he just didn't want to go out of his room, the unknown was out there, and when you can't see, the unknown was terrifying. He smiled as he remembered Buck and Chris literally dragging him out of the room on a few occasions under protest. Maybe that's why he wanted out of the room so bad now, besides the fact he'd looked at everything he could look at a hundred times already.
He got up from the bed and hopped his way quietly to the window. He looked down the street, and remembered what Joseline had done. All because of him, she shot him, and then took her own life. He looked back to the bed he slept on and remembered Chris telling him that Jos had killed his mother.
He then thought of what else he had learned, just a few months ago. His mother wasn't who he thought she was, he wasn't who he thought he was. The only good thing that came out of that mess was he found a brother.
Maybe Chris had been right, maybe he should have kept on going. Maybe the guys should have thrown him back on the stage, they certainly wouldn't have to worry about him all the time. What did he offer this group anyways? He was good with a gun, the others were better. He and Vin were the youngest, but even Vin acted as old as Chris most of the time. So he could ride better than most of them, he took better care of his horse. He tried to think of something he offered these men, why they kept him around. He thought of the only good thing he could do and hung his head, sighed, and looked back out the window.
Still just a stable boy, he thought as he wallowed in his self doubt and pity.
+ + + + + + +
"It's about time," JD said.
"This don't mean your gonna be walking all over the place, JD, and I mean it!"
"I know you mean it." doesn't mean I won't though, JD thought to himself.
"Look, and I'm talkin' to all of ya," Nathan scanned the five men standing in front of him, " just in case one of ya happens to 'forget', you can remind each other. JD, you ain't used your leg for over a month so its real weak. Now no runnin', no walkin' all over the place and no ridin'."
"Okay, okay..wait..no ridin'?? Why not Nathan?" casting the famous look.
"How you gonna get up, you gotta put that foot in the stirrup first, or did ya forget that part?
"No, I can do it from the other side," JD said matter of factly.
" Fine." JD smiled as the healer said that, then he bent over to JD's face, "No ridin'," the smile instantly gone.
"Dang it, Nathan, you might as well keep that thing on me, I still can't do nothin'," JD pouted.
The five men tried to hide the smiles and the laughter that was trying to escape. JD had waited so long to be able to get his legs under him and now he was told that he still couldn't. They did feel for him though, he hadn't done much complaining about not being able to be up and about. The older men had sensed the boy's attitude slipping, he began not eating as much and kept quiet alot.
Nathan was happy, JD had remained in bed, except for the time he managed to make his way down the clinic steps and sit out on the porch. Nathan had gone to a ranch outside of town to check on a sick child, so JD took the opportunity and snuck out. He would have been fine if he hadn't fallen asleep, Buck and Chris had seen Nathan coming and rushed to get the kid awake and back up the stairs in bed.
Nathan noticed the kid 'sleeping', he knew JD was breathing a little fast and a bit sweaty, he also knew he was too still. Unless the kid was unconscious, he was moving, even when he slept. Nathan never said a word but glared at the two men 'casually' sitting in the chair next to the bed.
"And I don't wanna have any repeats of when I was gone for the day! You understand..all of ya?"
"I can't even go out? Nathan, that's just down right not fair! I been cooped up here too long, you gotta let me outside!" JD didn't even try the look, he had been looking forward to this day for a long time, and now the healer was telling him he still couldn't go out.
"What if one of us is with him, Nathan. Can't expect him to stay inside for another week," Chris tried, knowing by the kid's tone that this could send him down even more.
"I have a hand carved walking stick that I acquired from a man that resided in St. Louis," Ezra tried.
"It's only for a few days, do some walking in here before you try them stairs. If you can make it down the stairs I'll let you go out," Nathan regretted his words almost as they came out.
"I can do that already, Nathan!" JD said, with a bit of sarcasm. "Hurry up and I'll show ya," JD had a way of not knowing when it was a good time not to talk. The men rolled their eyes, this was one of those times.
The men felt a need to explain, the young sheriff was already depressed, why didn't Nathan see that? They had helped him 'escape' a few times, trying to cheer him up and get that smile back on his face and the spark back in his eyes. It worked, but for only a bit, going up and down the stairs would wear him down, causing frustration for the young man.
"He only went down a couple of times, Nathan," obviously his brother shared that trait as he tried to defend JD.
"He never put his foot on the stairs," maybe it wasn't a family trait, as Buck tried to soften the look Nathan was giving each man as they spoke.
"Someone was always with him," Chris lessened the burden of his two friends.
"It was a rather remarkable feat," Ezra added, the smile was erased by the healer's stare, after a long silence Nathan turned to Josiah..at least he wouldn't have taken part in this.
"Sorry, Brother Nate, it was that look," he said hanging his head.
The healer turned to the source of his aggravation that sat in front of him, he wondered if the kid realized that these grown men, dangerous men, all hardened gunslingers could melt with one look. If the outlaws and bandits could see this they would laugh every time they came across the seven.
"Well, then," he said with one final cut, the bandages finally coming off, "just take it easy, I'm serious about the runnin' and the ridin', you could break that bone all over again," Nathan said defeatedly as the kid grabbed a sock then his boot and pulled it on.
"I'm hungry!" And with a very noticeable limp he headed for the door. As the five peacekeepers passed Nathan, each sporting a smile, they put their hand on Nathan's shoulder while his head was shaking.
"Thanks, Nathan," they each said as they passed the healer still kneeling in front of the chair, a pile of hardened bandages in front of him. He shook his head and let out a sigh and stood.
"Guess I could use somethin' to eat, too."
The small group of men made their way down the stairs, Buck and Chris were in front of JD, in case he began to fall and Vin, who was behind him, couldn't grab him fast enough. JD made his way with out any problems, hopping with one foot down each step as he held onto the railing, not even stopping at the bottom where the older men were waiting.
JD had made his way down the boardwalk, the limp becoming more persistent, and with the adrenaline rush beginning to wear off, his leg began to ache. He began to hop on one leg as the group approached the cafe and Vin moved to help.
"I'm..fine..Vin..I can..do this.." he said as he became winded.
"I'm just trying to help," Vin answered calmly
"I don't ..want..any..help..okay," not being able to hide his own frustration.
"You mind if I open the door?" Vin said sarcastically, not realizing how frustrated his brother was by the fact that he hadn't been able to walk the distance.
JD tentatively put his foot on the ground determined to walk into the cafe, and did so with a lot of discomfort.
"Sheriff! What a wonderful surprise, glad to see you up and around, what can I get ya'?"
"Thanks, Molly, surprise me," he said with a forced smile, winded and sweat coming off his forehead, not realizing it would take all his strength away. He sat heavily in the chair, and as Molly brought a plate of food out for him and the others, he fought to keep his eyes open, he had eaten only a few bites when he lost the fight, and fell asleep in the chair, an elbow resting on the arm of the chair, the side of his head resting in his hand.
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